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Random Thoughts: The Stress-free Book Blogger

Being a book blogger sounds like a lot of fun. Read books, write reviews, connect with book lovers around the globe, chat with authors on Twitter, join book clubs on Goodreads. Well, it is fun. A lot of fun actually. But it can also be extremely stressful… though it doesn’t have to be.

Before you decided to become a book blogger, chances are you knew next to nothing about blogging or all that it entails. I know I didn’t. I had a blog before. I posted when I wanted to. I never really thought about who read it. I never thought about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and if I didn’t have anything to say, I didn’t worry about it. But that wasn’t a book blog.

Now that I have a book blog, all those things (and more) factor in. So, it’s not just about reading and writing reviews. It’s about posting consistently, having content that I hope people would be interested in reading, keeping my blog’s sidebar up-to-date, responding to comments, getting involved in events, keeping up with social media… the list goes on.

If the idea of posting content daily, or semi-weekly, or weekly sounds stressful, just you wait. That’s only the tip of the iceberg.

As your blog grows, so do the opportunities and responsibilities. Getting that first request for a review is exciting. Having an author reach out to you to read their work is flattering and nerve-wracking… and stressful. When you know, for the first time, that someone is definitely going to be reading what you have to say, it can be terrifying. The pressure to read it, the desperate hope to love it, and the need to please is all right there for that first review.

Then there’s NetGalley. As a new blogger there aren’t typically publishers knocking at your door offering up books for you to review. But NetGalley is right there, giving you the opportunity to request – and likely receive – books for review. And of course, the first instinct is to go crazy and request every single book you might be interested in reading.

As a reader, you could devour books, sometimes seven books a week. But what you forget, with that rush of excitement that comes when you see all those as yet to be released titles staring back at you, is that it’s not just about reading anymore. You actually have to write a review and create a post with all sorts of information that helps to promote the book – cover image, links to buy, et cetera.

So as you sit, with thirty books – or dare I say more – on your NetGalley page, just waiting to be read and reviewed, panic sets in. It’s very likely that most of those titles will be released in close proximity to one another and not staggered over the course of the year. And you want to meet those release date deadlines. Otherwise they wouldn’t be early reviews.

And so the stress continues to build.

And as you get more requests for review with firm deadlines, and continue to accept them, you start to feel slightly underwater. You probably still recall being able to read several books a week – the reality of it not quite setting in that you just can’t do that anymore – and as the realization begins to dawn on you that there are times that you probably won’t feel like reading, your stress-level increases exponentially.

If this weren’t enough, you realize you’ve been blogging for six months already. Yay! So now you get to reach out with confidence to publishers to request their titles. Now, not all of them will be responsive, but some just might. The general rule of thumb is to blog consistently for six months before reaching out, and you’ve done that, so guess what? Time to request a few… or a few more.

Who doesn’t love seeing those lovely advance reader copies arriving in the mail, whether requested or unsolicited? Certainly not someone who’s been blogging only six months. I know I was thrilled beyond belief when I received my very first printed ARC from a publisher.

Well, now the pressure is really on. You definitely want to meet those guidelines for a review. You don’t want to mess things up right away with those publishers. Whether you like a book or not, you want to write a review that is thoughtful and insightful.

If you’re not stressed enough by now, there are plenty more ways to add stress to your blogging life – host an event, participate in an event or challenge, be part of a blog tour, request interviews with authors. Anything that nails down a specific date on your calender will add stress.

So, if you’re at the point where you can barely breathe from the panic that you feel, if you find your mind racing with all the things you have to do by a certain date, if you find that you can’t sleep through the night without worrying about all that you have to do in addition to your real life stuff, then it’s probably time to take a step back and take stock.

Because as stressful as it may seem, it really, really doesn’t have to be.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind. Things that are easily forgotten in the whirlwind of reading, reviewing, blogging and socializing.

You do not need to blog every day.

No one is holding a gun to your head. You are not going to lose all your followers just because you take a day off here and there – or more. As long as you’re consistent, whether it’s once or twice a week or less, you won’t be upsetting your readers. And if you choose to take a week or more off, just create a post letting them know when you’ll be back.

You do not need to accept any books for review.

I’m pretty sure there are at least ten or twenty already released books just sitting on your shelves begging for a read. Books that have no pressure to be read by any date. But likely there are quite a few more. You are a book lover, after all, or you wouldn’t be doing this.

Reviewing a book early can be wonderfully helpful for an author or publisher, but any great review posted on your blog, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other site where it can be seen by potential new readers, is helpful.

You may want to be part of those lovely ARC mailings and share those early release titles in your IMM posts, but if the stress of actually reading them and reviewing them outweighs the joy of receiving them, you may want to think about holding off on the requests, or only requesting your absolute must reads.

You won’t have the NetGalley police knocking on your door if you miss your review deadlines.

Sure, there is a possibility that if you don’t review enough of your request titles you might not be accepted for more, but the eARC you received did not require that same level of expense a printed ARC did. You may have taken the title away from someone else if there was a limited distribution, but the cost to send you the eARC is far less than the cost of mailing you a printed one.

You do not need to participate in ARC tours.

You may want to get your hands on that title early and the only way to do that is to sign up for an ARC tour, but you have very little time with the book – typically less than a week – so be absolutely sure you will want to read it (or can read it) on the day it’s coming to you.

You don’t need to participate in events or challenges.

As important as it seems to be part of the community, if it causes you too much stress and effort to take part in reading challenges, read-a-thons, blog hops, memes or author/book tours, you don’t have to. It’s not a requirement.

If scheduling your reads makes you feel too pressured, you don’t have to take part in blog tours requiring reviews. Ask to see if you can do a guest post or author interview. And if you’re not comfortable with coming up with author interview questions, you don’t have to. See what else you might be able to offer instead.

If answering those meme post questions is too tricky, you can skip that week or choose not to participate at all. If visiting all those sites of other meme participants takes too much of your time, you can simply just stop. Remember, there is no requirement for you to have daily content on your site. Unless you truly enjoy the meme, you don’t need it simply for filler content.

So, what about me? Am I a stress-free blogger?

Nope. Not even close. Not in a million years.

But I’m trying.

And I’ll be trying much harder in the new year. I’m not one to take my own advice, typically. But I think I have to.

I’ve already tried to scale back a little. By not posting every single day on one of my other blogs. I just can’t do it here on this main blog. I committed to daily posts and if I give up that commitment I’m terrified this house of cards will collapse. But My Reading Pile doesn’t have to be an everyday blog if I don’t have something new to add.

I have changed my review policy. While I love my Indie/Self-published authors, I just can’t take on too many more new authors.

I’ve reduced the number of requests I’ve made on NetGalley and Galley Grab. I think I’ve only requested four titles in the last four months – two of which I requested this week.

I’ve reduced the requests I’ve made to traditional publishers – not that I got too many books to begin with. While I covet those titles just like anyone else does, I am too frantic with the books I already have on the pile to ask for more right now. It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the book.

I refuse to be stressed if an ARC I’ve traded for doesn’t get read by release date. I have absolutely no obligations to read those books from anyone but myself and so I choose not to feel obligated. But I have reduced the number of trades I’ve made.

And in the new year I am making room to read books for me – those hundreds of books I purchased in the past year that have gone unread because of obligations I’ve made. I want to read Darkest Mercy, Afterlife, SilencePassion, City of Fallen Angels, catch up with The Morganville Vampires, The Drake Chronicles, and Strange Angels. I want to see what all the fuss is about The Hunger Games before the films come out. And I want to read a few adult paranormal titles that have caught my eye by authors like Richelle Mead, Jeri Smith-Ready, Chloe Neill, Rachel Vincent and J.R. Ward.

There is nothing quite like reading a book just because you want to read it and not because you have obligated yourself to do so. To me, that is the perfect example of stress-free book blogging.

So, what about you? Are you a stress-free blogger?

Do you want to be? How do hope to make that happen?

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